ST. CATHARINE, Ky. — More than 375 youth participants and 125 religious priests, brothers, sisters and lay volunteers gathered last week at St. Catharine College near Springfield, Ky., for Ignite Your Torch, a Catholic youth conference.
In its eighth year, the national youth conference drew participants from 13 different states including Washington, Texas and New Jersey. Approximately 135 of the 14- to 18-year-olds in attendance were from the Archdiocese of Louisville.
Ignite Your Torch is designed to foster an understanding of the Catholic faith in a prayer-centered environment, said Tamara Cesare, president of Catholics United for Life and coordinator of Ignite Your Torch.
“The first thing people believe is that young people have no desire for something solid. People underestimate our youth and believe they only want fun,” Cesare said. “We do have fun here, but the most amazing aspect is the desire for something deeper.”
From July 5 to 8, the youth listened to talks given by religious priests, brothers and sisters; reflected on their faith during small-group discussions; and participated in workshops, where they were able to choose from topics ranging from praying the rosary to dating. The young people also attended rosary processions, holy hours and traveled to Louisville one morning to pray outside an abortion clinic.
Father James Brent, a Dominican friar and professor at Catholic University of America, addressed the participants at a general assembly on Friday, July 6. He presented a talk titled “What is Natural Law?”
Father Brent explained to the youth that there are laws higher than “the laws of each nation” and higher than “the laws of men.”
Father Brent also addressed the controversial issue of same-sex marriage as it relates to natural law.
“A lot of people are under the impression that if we can just change the laws of the United States, if we just change our civil and human laws, well, then two men will be married,” he said. “It’s not a natural marriage, because it doesn’t produce life. … That means that there is a law higher than the laws of the United States. And the higher law is that marriage is between a male and female.”
Jacinto Quijano, a high-school student from La Pryor, Texas, said he plans to take back what he has learned at the conference to his parish and family, specifically the practice of praying the rosary.
“I attended a workshop on praying the rosary and learned about Our Lady of Fatima’s desire that we pray the rosary every day. Every household can do that; that’s not very much,” he said.
Lacee Tate, a student at Meade County High School and parishioner at St. John the Apostle Church in Brandenburg, Ky., said the conference has increased her faith and that she is inspired by the stories of others attending the conference.
“It’s my second time attending Ignite Your Torch, and the vibe you get after is indescribable. You get so educated on your faith,” she said.
Kelly Popham, also from Meade County, said the youth conference was like nothing he had ever experienced.
“It feels so good to be around peers that have the same beliefs as you,” he said.
The teen said he plans to pray more often and “do more for my church community” at St. John the Apostle.
By Jessica Able, Record Staff Writer